A Chorley husband and wife have been arrested in Spain on suspicion of a £140,000 property scam.
Ex-pats John and Amanda Treagust are being quizzed by agents from the Guardia Civil over claims that they ran a website which fleeced holidaymakers into paying rental deposits on properties that were not available.
The family emigrated to Spain several years ago having previously run the Last Orders pub on Wigan’s Wallgate.
An investigation was launched in February after the civil guard of Almeria in south eastern Spain began receiving real estate fraud complaints about apartments and villas on the Costa Blanca being offered for rent on the internet via a site called Costa Blanca Live.
They centred around properties in the coastal resorts of Orihuela Costa and Torrevieja.
The alleged victims said they entered into a contract for properties advertised on several internet sites which included pictures, details, contact forms and a reservation form.
After filling in the forms, the property administration would e-mail the interested parties requesting a deposit in order to formalize the reservation.
A bank account number was provided and several weeks later the customer would be contacted again to make the money transfer.
But complaints told the police that when they tried to make further contact with the administrator after paying the deposit, they discovered they could no longer get through.
Some embarked on their holidays only to arrive at the properties they thought they were renting to discover they were occupied by the real owners.
The Guardia Civil is believed to have spoken to 11 alleged victims from Britain, France, Portugal, Italy and Belgium, each with very similar stories to tell, although it is said that the number of people claiming to have been duped may rise to more than 60.
John Anthony Treagust, 41, and Amanda Jane Treagust, 37, were arrested on suspicion of fraud and their small mountain home in Mojácar, Almería, has been searched by agents for clues.
Local media say hat the amount stolen might eventually amount to more than £150,000.
The Treagusts ran a blog entitled Life on the Costa Blanca, and talked of growing their business from a small project in 2007 to “a busy and bustling company with over 5,000 properties managed by us, meaning you have the peace of mind that should anything go wrong, we are here to help”.
Amanda Treagust, named as the company’s commercial director, is described on the blog as “never resting until her clients are settled into that perfect property and are enjoying the lifestyle she has come to love”.
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